The Enduring Value of the Participatory Lord’s Supper

CommunionI grew up in a Bible-believing church that celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ once each week in a meeting called “The Lord’s Supper.” It was also know in our family as “The Breaking of Bread” or the “First Meeting.” The meeting is unlike communion services in mainline evangelical churches in that it is a service where men who have trusted in Jesus Christ can stand up sporadically and share something about their Savior from their heart. I heard a lot about the importance of that meeting growing up, often from within the meeting itself. Many people over the years have testified about its’ significance in their life. Some have identified it as the main reason they choose to fellowship at a particular local church. Others qualify that service as the most important hour of their week.

Many have written about the biblical foundation for the participatory Lord’s Supper. That is not the purpose of this article, though it is an area of continued need. Neither do I intend to make sweeping generalizations about the churches that employ this kind of a service, as seems to be popular among some today. In what follows, I simply want to offer seven reasons why I value the Lord’s Supper. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, as if I could in a few words encompass the immeasurable worth of remembering the Savior in this way. While these reasons are very close to my heart, they are in no way exclusive to myself alone. I hope in reading them you also will be moved to marvel at the manifold wisdom of our Lord Jesus Christ for instituting this remembrance meal. Continue reading

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Eternal Relational Subordination and the History of the Church (Pt. 2)

57KRVGK2H9In the first part of this article I argued that evangelicalism is engaged in a civil war on the theological battlefield of Trinitarianism in regard to the heated and divisive issue of the eternal relational subordination of the Son. For an elaboration of this statement, see Part 1.  One common argument against the eternal subordination of the Son (ESS) is that it is a modern invention created in the 20th century by those who were looking for added theological support for discussions of gender and church roles. Opponents of ESS claim that using the eternal subordination of the Son  as a way to support gender distinctions within the church and marital relationships is heretical because it goes against the orthodox teaching of the church.

Is this accusation valid? In the previous article we saw that among church fathers of the patristic period there was no harmonious agreement either rejecting or accepting the eternal relational subordination of the Son from 1 Corinthians 15:27-28. But what about during the medieval, Reformation, and post-Reformation periods? The following is an examination of 1 Cor. 15:27-28 in post-patristic church history. At the close of this article I will offer some concluding thoughts and the implications of this study on the current Trinitarian debate. Continue reading

Eternal Relational Subordination and the History of the Church (Pt. 1)

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Evangelicalism is engaged in a civil war on the theological battlefield of Trinitarianism in regard to the heated and divisive issue of the eternal relational subordination of the Son. In short, there are those who assert God the Father and Jesus the Son are fully equal in every way within the immanent Trinity (God as he exists in eternity, apart from creation), and only in his humanity does the Son willingly subject himself to the Father (the economic Trinity, God in his interactions in this created world).[1] Others say that the Son’s submission to his Father in his humanity is an accurate reflection of their eternal relationship: the Son is eternally “subordinate” to the Father in terms of their roles.[2] Advocates of this second position make clear that the Father and Son are equally God ontologically in eternity, but in their relationship with one another there is an ordering where the Son always voluntarily submits to the Father. Since we are talking about the inner workings of God, tempers quickly flare and discussions quickly turn to arguments in this debate.

One common argument against the eternal subordination of the Son (ESS) is that it is a modern invention created in the 20th century by those who were looking for added theological support for discussions of gender and church roles. Opponents of ESS have sought to show that in the history of Trinitarian development within the early church, the church fathers do not speak about the Son as subordinate or submissive to the Father eternally but only in relation to redemptive history.[3] They claim that using the eternal subordination of the Son  as a way to support gender distinctions within the church and marital relationships is heretical because it goes against the orthodox teaching of the church.

So who is right? Did the early church fathers accept or reject the idea of the eternal subordination of the Son as it relates to his relationship with the Father? What about during the Reformation and post-Reformation periods? Contrary to what many are saying the in evangelical community today, there was no general consensus on the topic of the eternal relational submission of the Son to the Father in the history of the church. While some voices seem to oppose ESS, others appear to embrace it. Here are just a few brief examples from one relevant passage: 1 Corinthians 15:27-28. Continue reading

Why the Garden Tomb is [Probably] Not Jesus’ Tomb

HOLYLAND 2005 111Several years ago I was blessed to be able to visit the Holy Land with a former teacher and friend. Seeing the places where biblical events transpired was a truly life-changing experience. I do, however, remember being perplexed by the presentation of the two different popular locations for the burial place of Jesus. One site is contained within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Having grown up in a city with an abundance of Catholic churches and being familiar with the iconography and liturgy that accompanies them I was not impressed by the site. It was dark, dank, and devoid of joy, crowded with weeping pilgrims asking forgiveness, perhaps unsure if Christ would grant their petitions.

There was a great contrast between that first site and the Garden Tomb that we later visited. The Garden Tomb was situated in the midst of beautiful greenery in a quiet and quaint area inviting the meditation and reflection of visitors. There was even a sign on the recently added tomb door that read “He is not here. He has risen.” I will never forget my instructor standing beside me near the Garden Tomb with a smile on his face, saying facetiously, “This place just feels so good, this is where it had to have happened. Jesus had to have risen from the dead here, right?”

He was referring to the fact that in spite of how the two different sites may feel, the Garden Tomb is almost certainly not the place where Jesus was buried. Looks can be deceiving, and the look and feel of these two sites today convince many to trust their emotions rather than the evidence. In the following brief sections I want to outline three reasons why the Garden Tomb is likely not the place where Jesus was buried and rose again. Continue reading

Stop Labeling Him “Doubting Thomas”

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In John’s gospel Thomas is absent from the larger group of disciples when Jesus makes His first appearance to them. As a result of this absence, Thomas does not see Jesus, and when the other disciples tell him what has transpired, he refuses to believe. In our day Thomas has been given the label “doubting” because of his lack of faith that Jesus had really risen from the dead. I would like to suggest that this label is misleading, over-simplistic, and ultimately unhelpful. Thomas has gotten a bad reputation in the church today for his doubt, but what if doubt wasn’t really the problem at all? Continue reading

When Jesus Doesn’t Meet My Expectations

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Not What She Was Expecting

My wife and I were engaged a little over five years ago. Leading up to our engagement she had all the evidence necessary to know that I intended to propose to her: we had gone ring shopping together and actually purchased the ring, we had talked about our love for one another, and we had made plans for our future together. Even though she had all this evidence, when the time came that I actually proposed she was at first confused when I asked her to marry me. Continue reading

Why is the Birth of Jesus Good News?

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“And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”    (Luke 2:8-11)

There’s a lot of good news at Christmas time. For children, there are shouts of joy for presents under the tree on Christmas morning or weather reports of giant snowstorms on the way and days off of school. For adults, announcements of Christmas parties, bonuses, time off, paid vacation!

But why is the birth of Jesus good news? Why do we, two thousand years later, celebrate the birth of a Jewish boy from a home of unimportant nobodies in an unimportant Podunk city in the ancient Middle Eastern nowhere? How does this event that took place so long ago have any bearing on our lives today? The angel’s words to the shepherds in Luke 2:10-11 help us understand. Continue reading